Long-term effects of motor training on resting-state networks and underlying brain structure.
Taubert M., Lohmann G., Margulies DS., Villringer A., Ragert P.
Acquired motor skills are coded in fronto-parietal brain networks, but how these networks evolve through motor training is unclear. On the one hand, increased functional connectivity has been shown immediately after a training session; on the other hand, training-induced structural changes are visible only after several weeks. Based on known associations between functional and structural network development during human ontogeny, we hypothesised that learning a challenging motor task leads to long-lasting changes in functional resting-state networks and the corresponding cortical and sub-cortical brain structures. Using longitudinal functional and structural MRI at multiple time points, we demonstrate increased fronto-parietal network connectivity one week after two brief motor training sessions in a dynamic balancing task, although subjects were engaged in their regular daily activities during the week. Repeated training sessions over six consecutive weeks progressively modulate these changes in accordance with individual performance improvements. Multimodal correlation analyses showed an association between structural grey matter alterations and functional connectivity changes in prefrontal and supplementary-motor areas. These coincident changes were most prominent in the first three weeks of training. In contrast, changes in fronto-parietal functional connectivity and the underlying white matter fibre structure developed gradually during the six weeks. Our results demonstrate a tight correlation between training-induced functional and structural brain plasticity on the systems level and suggest a functional relevance of intrinsic brain activity for morphological adaptation in the human brain.